Downtown Winnipeg Highlights from 2016

2016 was a fantastic year for downtown Winnipeg. Reduced crime, increased cleanliness, and added community support have continued to shape the downtown into a great place to play, shop, and live. Here are ten highlights from 2016 to celebrate as the year comes to a close.

 

  1. Sizzling Summer Events

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The Downtown Winnipeg BIZ hosted 230 events between June and October, attracting over 50,000 visitors to the downtown! From Zumba to movie screenings, festivals to concerts, there was truly something for everyone.

 

  1. Times Square Expert Takes On Portage and Main

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This February, president and CEO of Times Square Alliance Tim Tompkins came to the Fairmont Winnipeg to discuss opening Portage and Main to pedestrians. Tompkins played a huge role in turning Times Square into the tourist destination that it is today, and his perspective on Portage and Main provided a proven vision for the future of this iconic intersection.

 

  1. Police Unveil New Downtown Safety Strategy

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In mid-December, Winnipeg Police Service announced a new strategy to patrol the downtown. With a combination of modern technology and “walking the beat,” the new strategy will increase the presence of officers and foster a heightened sense of community. We look forward to seeing it in action.

 

  1. Manyfest Continues to Grow and Impress

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Seventy thousand people enjoyed the sixth annual Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Manyfest from September 9 to 11. The event celebrates arts, entertainment, community, and healthy living. The Food Truck Wars, presented by ROYALE Tiger Towel, was a particularly tasty highlight again.

 

  1. Canada Day Living Flag Still the Biggest

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Over 3,158 people gathered at Shaw Park on Canada Day to create a living flag, and we’re proud to say it was the biggest in the country! Shout-out to all the participants who made this event one for the record books.

 

  1. Pop-Up at Portage and Main

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From June to September, all four corners of Portage and Main hosted pop-up events on the last Friday of the month. Pedestrians experienced an exciting variety of events and entertainment in Canada’s famous intersection.

 

  1. #finditdowntown

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In May, the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ won Marketing Campaign of the Year (over $2,500) at the Winnipeg Tourism Awards of Distinction. Our social media platforms are doing better than ever at informing followers, capturing moments, and celebrating all that downtown Winnipeg has to offer.

 

  1. Host it Downtown

 

The Downtown Winnipeg BIZ’s “Host It Downtown” program aims to increase the number of events downtown. It was founded in 2015, and in 2016, we attracted new and existing events like the Manitoba Filipino Street Festival, SpaceLand, and Peg City St. Patrick’s Day Parade to our downtown. Perhaps we could host your next event?

 

  1. CHAT Program Better than Ever

 

The Downtown Winnipeg BIZ’s Community Homeless Assistance Team (CHAT) received increased support this year, with an annual investment of $120,000 from Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries and $150,000 from the City of Winnipeg.

 

The CHAT program provides support to downtown Winnipeg’s vulnerable populations, including homeless people and/or people struggling with addictions or mental health issues.

 

  1. True North Square announced

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In February, True North unveiled plans for True North Square, a $400 million development featuring businesses, hospitality and entertainment, residential space, outdoor rinks, and more.

 

Construction is already underway, and the end product will show again how much our downtown has to offer those who want to live, work, and play in this bustling area that continues to grow with opportunity.

Peggy’s Valentine’s Day Picks!

Brace yourselves, my friends – whether you’re ready (emotionally, etc.) or not, Valentine’s Day is here in all of its pink, sparkly, cute and lovey-dovey glory!

No matter what your relationship status, needs, or desires are this Saturday, Feb. 14, you’ll definitely be able to #finditdowntown for Valentine’s Day:

Dinner and a Movie at The Met

The Met often runs Dinner and a Movie events, and it’s really fun to go to the old theatre, have a delicious dinner and take in a movie. For Valentine’s Day they’re upping the romance, and showing the now-classic Nicholas Sparks tear-jerker, The Notebook. Tissues will almost definitely be in order.

Speaking of movies…

Feel free to go all Lady & the Tramp at The Old Spaghetti Factory. Pick from the delicious offerings on their special Valentine’s Day set menu, and be sure to book your table ASAP! Perhaps after dinner, your date will continue outside on the Red River Mutual Trail, and checking out some of the cool outdoor activities at The Forks.

Love Vinyl?

If you love vinyl, you might love the Love Vinyl event at The Garrick Hotel on Feb. 14. It’s going to be an all-vinyl, house music party featuring four DJs, drink specials and a bumpin’ dance floor all night!

Pizza.

Need I say more? I know very few humans who couldn’t find love over a slice of pizza. And if they couldn’t before, they should give it another chance at Carbone Coal Fired Pizza because it is just so tasty. And for Valentine’s Day they’re offering a Sip & Savour menu, including wine, salad, pizza and dessert for two.

As sparkly as you like it…

At the Fairmont they’re offering everything from Bleeding Heart cocktails and $50 Bubble Buckets and strawberries in the lounge on Feb. 13 to an eight-course aphrodisiac dinner at the Velvet Glove, to the exclusive, one-of-a-kind Dine and Diamonds package which includes a night stay in the Royal Alexandra Suite, 12-course Chef’s dinner, limousine transfers and a $3000 credit to Birk’s Jewellers.

Remember to pop in at my space on the second floor of Portage Place to make your Valentine for downtown and enter to win all kinds of prizes!

And if nothing else, eat plenty of chocolate this Valentine’s Day! 🙂

 

New restaurant time – Sana SoupHouse is open!

If there’s a better year to open a soup house, I honestly don’t know when it would have been. Maybe the Ice Age.

The paper came down from the windows at the new Sana SoupHouse on Graham yesterday – and by the end of the day they were sold out of all of their soups! Lucky for me I was one of the first in for lunch – I managed to taste before it was all gone.

First, I have to say that Sana is totally different than I was expecting inside – I’m not totally sure why, but I think I imagined it would be a very casual, takeout-only spot. And it’s so much more! Inside there’s a warm, modern sit-down restaurant with a massive stone soup bar, vintage photos of the city on the wall and big windows perfect for people-watching.

We decided to sit down and snagged one of the coveted window tables. The menu is a concise one page with four soups and four sandwiches made fresh daily – it’s kept short because the owners plan to change regularly to keep things fresh. Yesterday’s featured Mushroom & Dill; an Egg & Horseradish Borscht made with hearty chunks of kielbasa and whole eggs; Pickled Cucumber; and West African Peanut Soup – today’s includes Barley and Red Borscht! Apparently the soups apparently have their roots in family recipes – perfect picks for a cold spring like this. Sana SoupHouse 2

I went straight for the West African Peanut soup, and on a snowy day like yesterday it took me away to warm and sunny places. The warm golden-orange broth was packed with fresh-cracked peanut flavour and given a hint of richness by sweet potatoes – I ended up using my wedge of baguette to mop up every last bite.

If you’re after a quick lunch and don’t have time to sit down at one of the tables or the bar, Sana does takeout as well – find out more about them at www.sanasouphouse.com

Hot hotels

As we continue our countdown to Let’s Do Lunch Downtown, I’m pleased to announce the winners of the last two gift cards.

Hy’s Steakhouse: Lyle

Lobby on York: Julie

Congratulations!

Okay, as usual, don’t worry if you didn’t win this round, I’ve got more to give away. Today I’ve got $50 each to The Lounge at the Fairmont Hotel and the Palm Lounge at the Fort Garry Hotel.

To enter, leave a comment below saying which one you’d like to try and a way a to contact you. (You can leave your email in the contact form–it will be kept hidden.)

You have until Friday at 9am to enter.

Lounge at The Fairmont
2 Lombard Place, 957-1350

I love to go for a nibble in hotel lounges–it kind of feels like you’re on a holiday, but you don’t have to go anywhere! A couple of weeks ago, I met a friend for after dinner drinks at the Fairmont Hotel. Since it’s connected to the underground walkway, it’s so easy to get there and you can stay toasty warm while doing it.

The Lounge at the Fairmont is exactly what one would expect, sumptuous and cozy with comfortable little booths perfect for a heart-to-heart or serious business meeting.

My friend and I decided to share a few appetizers and were delighted with each of our choices. The menu focuses on creative plates and favours the use of fresh Manitoba ingredients like Stonewood Elk and Manitoba turkey.

Our favourite was the incredibly tender lamb chops that were drizzled with a little bit of John Russell (also locally produced) honey. They provided that satisfying combination of earthy and sweet that I love, and they were literally falling off the bone.

We also sampled the pickerel fritters. They were crispy little balls of fried goodness and flakes of fish all served in a pool of spiced tomatoey aioli that was perfect for dipping. I kind of liked how they were all stuck with toothpicks to eat them with rather than using your boring old fork. I’m always a sucker for a cool gimmick.

And finally, we shared the smoked salmon “naan”-za. A cute take on a pizza, this one used traditional Indian flatbread as the base and was spread with dill cream cheese. It then came topped with ruby red slices of smoked salmon, slices of red onion and lots of capers (I love capers). The combination was light and fresh and satisfying.

Some other menu items I will have to try next time I go are the BBQ pork sliders, beer battered Lake Winnipeg Pickerel and, of course, the handmade perogies stuffed with Winkler sausage, caramelized onions and cheddar cheese. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

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The Palm Room
The Fort Garry Hotel, 942-8251

One of my absolute favourite places in the city to visit is the Palm Room in the Fort Garry Hotel. I love everything about it.

I love the soaring ceiling decorated with gold and green and red. I love the huge chandeliers. I love the piano player in the corner. I love the dark wood tables and the big comfy chairs. I love the waiters in their smart grey jackets and mostly, I love the sense that you’ve stepped into a whole other era when men wore top hats and women fainted a lot.

It’s the kind of place where you can ask for pretty much anything and the kitchen will make it for you–although they do have a good menu too. I love their antipasto platter. There is just something so civilized about a plate of sliced meats and cheeses paired with olives and amazing marinated eggplant. A basket of soft fluffy bed is the perfect complement.

The menu is full of classic comfort foods perfect for travellers looking for a piece of home. Shepherd’s pie, roast turkey, mac and cheese and other soul satisfying dishes are all expertly prepared and delivered with a flourish.

They also offer nightly entertainment featuring light jazz that keeps the room buzzing. I was there on a Saturday night recently, and I swear it was the most happening place in the city.

Of course there is also a lengthy wine list and the staff are always happy to offer up suggestions. If you’re in the mood for something else, there is nothing these bartenders can’t make.

 

Decadent Dining

I’m starting to get excited for Let’s Do Lunch Downtown, when 21 downtown restaurants will be offering up awesome lunch specials starting at just $6.99. Over the next few weeks we’ll be revealing the special menus that have been prepared for you. And if you Do Lunch Downtown, you’ll be eligible to win an amazing $500 restaurant package.

I’ve also got lots of gift certificates to give away and the winners of the last two are:

The Beachcomber: Leana Buhler

Modern Restaurant: Lindsey

Congrats!

I’ve got two more awesome prizes up for grabs again today. This time I’ve got a $50 gift card from Lobby on York to offer and a $50 gift card from Hy’s Steakhouse.

To enter, leave a comment below telling me which one you’d like to try along with a way to contact you. (You can leave your email address in the form–it will be kept private.)

You’ve got until Wednesday at 9am to enter this one.

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Lobby on York
295 York Avenue, 896-7275

I think oysters are becoming the new hot item in town and never one to miss an opportunity to eat, I knew I had to indulge. I’d been hearing about Lobby on York’s oysters for a while and last week, finally got the chance to check it out.

It turns out oyster night is every night (now that’s something I can get behind) in their lounge. They come nestled in a bed of ice, served with lemon and Tabasco and are perfectly tender and briny just as good oysters should be. Couple that with the sensuous atmosphere of Lobby’s lounge and you’re in heaven.

While we were there, we decided to try out a couple of menu items as well. I can’t rave enough about the tuna tartare. I adore tartare in all its forms and this was over the top. Flavourful and fresh, with just the right amount of avocado, sesame oil and chili aioli mixed in. It came with these incredible homemade ripple chips that were crispy and satisfying. I could have eaten whole bathtubs of both items.

We also tried their beet salad, which was also delectable. The beets were roasted and came with arugula, walnut, pear and chevre. The dressing was a maple balsamic reduction that was so rich and velvety, it almost seemed like my salad had been drizzled with chocolate. I’m not kidding. I actually had to ask the waitress if there was chocolate, but no, apparently the chef can just make things taste like chocolate without it. Kind of like turning lead into gold I think.

And finally, agedashi tofu is another of my favourites and Lobby’s upscale version goes to the top of my list. Light and airy, it came sitting in a shallow pool of truffle scented ponzu and flavoured delicately with ginger and lime. Pure heaven. (Trust me on this, even if you think you don’t like tofu. It’s to die for.)

The lounge is also featuring a new menu where we tried a plate of angus beef sliders. The meat was tender and juicy. My favourite items was the upscale poutine (you all know how much I love poutine) made with crispy fries, cheese, slices of pear and house-made demi glace. It was without fail, that perfect combination of salty, gooey and awesome.

I am going back soon to try the lemon truffle chicken wings, which sound so ridiculously good, I can’t even wrap my head around it.

Lobby is also offering a special ladies nights on Thursdays with drink specials, appetizers and the chance to win a $100 gift certificate. So get the girls and party like it’s 2011.

 

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Hy’s Steakhouse
One Lombard Place, 942-1000

Walking into Hy’s Steakhouse is liking walking into a castle. Soaring ceilings, big white fireplaces, rich dark walls, silky fabrics and the smell of a humming kitchen permeates the air.

Last week, I headed over for lunch and enjoyed a decadent two hours enjoying delicious food and good company.

One has to start with the signature cheese toast that comes wrapped in foil and piping hot from the kitchen. Thick slices of bread are covered in melting gooey cheese that is just amazing. It’s the perfect appetizer. One of my lunch companions also decided to try the French onion soup, which was delectable. The broth was rich and earthy and came topped with bubbling crust of cheese.

For my lunch entree, I opted for the beef dip, aptly called “rare dunkin'” on the menu. A soft white baguette was topped with tender slices of rare beef and served alongside a flavourful jus for dipping. I also opted for a side of their crispy, golden French fries. It was all delicious.

One of my favourite things about these classic types of restaurants is their ability to bring old school recipes to life. Another of my lunch companions had the crab Louie salad–a concoction that was apparently first served in Seattle in the early 1900s. The salad consists of crab meat (obvs), romaine lettuce, asparagus, hard boiled eggs, tomato and cucumber all tossed in a Louie dressing of mayo, chillis and peppers. Hy’s version was a fresh, flavourful and satisfying lunch option.

For dessert, we shared a slice of bourbon chocolate cake that is going to become one of my picks for Peggy’s Bucket List. Dark, dense and rich, it was absolutely sinful–and wow, could you taste the bourbon! It came topped with a big dollop of white chocolate ganache that melded perfectly with the dark chocolate and bourbon. Don’t miss out on this one.

 

Island Getaway

Thank you to everyone who participated in my first Let’s Do Lunch Downtown contest this month.

The winners of the gift certificates were:

$50 gift certificate to Old Spaghetti Factory: cathy kenny

$25 gift certificate to Dessert Sinsations: Kate

Congratulations!

If you didn’t win this round, don’t fret. I’ve got more stuff to give away.

This time I’ve got a $50 gift card to The Beachcomber and a $25 gift card to Modern Restaurant.

To enter, leave a comment below telling me which one you’d like to try along with a way to contact you. (You can leave your email address in the form–it will be kept private.)

You’ve got until Monday at 9am to enter this one.

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The Beachcomber
The Forks Market, 948-0020

If winter is starting to get you down, you need a trip to a tropical location. Not in the budget? No worries–I’ve got the solution for you right here and it won’t cost you more than dinner!

Beachcomber’s restaurant, located inside The Forks Market, and its fun and whimsical Caribbean and nautical themed decor will put you in the mind of warmer climes, while filling your belly.  (Although they do have one of the best patios in the city overlooking the river–so you’ll need to go back and enjoy that come June.)

The menu combines seafood, salads, steaks and pasta.

I really enjoyed the sun runner’s steamed mussels. One of their signature items, the flavours are really smoky and intense. And of course there’s plenty of sauce left to sop up with bread afterwards–one of my favourite things in the whole world. I also really liked the Kumala sweet potato fries that come dusted with Cajun spice for a little kick and served with spiced mayo for dipping.

As an entree you could opt for the Alaskan King crab legs (with butter of course), the paella packed with salmon, halibut, prawns, scallops, chicken and chorizo or my personal favourite–the fish and chips. Fish and chips is one of those things I have a really hard time bypassing on menus and this version is crispy and delicious.

For those who like their protein to have legs, the tender lamb kebabs are seasoned with garlic, herbs and spices. And you can’t go wrong with a big old plate of pork back ribs–dry rubbed and slow roasted, served with hickory BBQ sauce.

While you’re there, check out the drink menu as well. They’ve got all sorts of tropically inspired concoctions that come in glasses as big as fishbowls and bursting with fruit. I tried the watermelon bellini which came decorated with a big slice of dragon fruit. Definitely celebration worthy!

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Modern Restaurant
354 Portage Avenue, 415-7515

Today I headed to the newly-opened Modern restaurant, housed in the former location of Rinkside at 354 Portage Avenue. While you’ll recognize much of the interior from its previous incarnation, that’s where the similarities end.

Modern specializes in East African cuisine, featuring the stews, bread and spices of Ethiopia. It’s one of my favourite types of food full of comforting dishes and tongue tantalizing heat. This is the kind of food that takes hours and hours to make, in order to develop its deep, complex flavours. The most common spice used in Ethiopian cuisine is one called berbere–a blend of chili, garlic, ginger, cloves, allspice, coriander and more.

I can’t think of anything more perfect to warm the soul on a cold January day.

My lunch companion and I decided to opt for the “buffet”, in this case, a large platter topped with a variety of things so we could try it all. (And it was a ridiculous steal at just $15 for the whole thing.)

The large platter came in the traditional way, blanketed by a piece of injera–the flatbread of this cuisine with a taste similar to sourdough.  Heaping piles of lentils, meat, veggies and sauce were then doled out on top of the bread, where the juices soaked down into it. A few more injera were served on the side and these became our eating utensils as we tore off little bits and used them to scoop up the food. (They’ll bring you a fork if you ask, but c’mon, live a little.)

My favourite was the tender beef stew. Its rich red colour lending a clue to the intensity of flavour waiting. It boasted a delicious combination of spicy, sour and sweet. Alongside were red and yellow lentils, each with their own distinct earthiness. I also loved the collard greens that came steamed and mixed with house made cottage cheese, making it rich and creamy. One unique offering I hadn’t seen before was a shredded pile of injera mixed with spices that heightened the delicious natural sourness of the bread.

There is a variety of other dishes on the menu including lamb tibs (boneless cubed lamb sauteed in spices) and chicken stew (a spicy dish made with berbere and clarified butter), as well as some other vegetarian options including chickpeas and split pea curry.

Needless to say, we left stuff and satisfied. A great option for lunch, the atmosphere is relaxed, casual and distinctly modern. (Ha, see what I did there?)

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Don’t forget!

There’s a great promotion happening at Portage Place.

Purchase a $60 Portage Place Gift Card and get an additional $10 Gift Card free! Plus enter to win a $500 Portage Place Shopping Spree!

Offer valid from March 16 – 27.

I’ve also got a $100 gift card to give away to one lucky winner! To enter, go to the Downtown BIZ Facebook page and like us. If you’re already a fan, then you’re automatically entered! The draw will take place March 16.

 

A little spice and everything nice

Today I’m excited to announce a new restaurant promotion happening April 4-29.

During Let’s Do Lunch Downtown, 21 downtown restaurants will be offering up awesome lunch specials starting at just $6.99. Over the next few weeks we’ll be revealing the special menus that have been prepared for you. And if you Do Lunch Downtown, you’ll be eligible to win an amazing $500 restaurant package.

As a lead up to this exciting event, I’m going to be promoting all of the participating restaurants and giving away tons of gift certificates for them!

First up are East India Company and 4Play Sports Bar.

I’ve got a $50 gift card to give away to each of them.

To enter leave a comment below telling me which restaurant you’d like to try along with a way to contact you. (You can enter your email in the comment form–it will be kept private.)

You’ve got until Wednesday, March 9.

East India Company
349 York Avenue, 947-3097

Indian food–it conjures up images of creamy sauces, fragrant spices and oh-so-good buffet. Of course we all know East India Company does it better that pretty much everyone, and your tour of Winnipeg’s ethnic restaurants wouldn’t be complete without a visit here. (And not only is their food amazing, owner Sachit Mehra is just the nicest guy ever, and I like giving my money to nice people.)

Apparently the Mehra’s have been using their own family’s unique garam masala (a blend of spices often unique to families) in their dishes for 35 years.

If I were to be granted a final meal, then East India Company’s butter chicken would be on my list. Tender pieces of chicken are swimming in a creamy tomato sauce that’s to die for. I also love, love, love their malai kofta–delicate cheese balls that are fried and dunked in a spiced sauce. Of course you can’t leave without trying the flavourful tandoori chicken or melt-in-your-mouth lamb curry.

Another one of my favourite items is the spinach paneer–a mixture of creamed spinach and Indian cheese that is earthy and satisfying. I also love watching their chef churn out naan (fluffy flatbread for scooping up sauces) at the tandoor oven sitting right in the middle of the buffet.

Of course there are also petite, crispy samosas stuffed with potato and peas and golden brown pakoras (battered spinach that is deep fried) perfect for starters. If you like something sweet to balance it out, try the tamarind chutney over top. I also like the mint chutney for a real kick.

Their dessert buffet is always impressive with some of my favourites including mango ice cream served in adorable little terracotta pots and gulab jamun–cheese balls fried and served with sweet syrup flavoured with rosewater and cardamon. Totally to die for.

And finally, make sure you try a mango lassi–kind of like an Indian milkshake–for a creamy and sweet treat.

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4Play Sports Bar
323 Portage Avenue, 221-4583

If you haven’t heard of (or been to) 4Play Sports Bar yet, you’re missing out on an experience unlike anywhere else in the city. Modeled after similar concepts in places like Las Vegas, 4Play Sports Bar is like man heaven (or woman heaven too if you want–I’m all for equal rights).

The former nightclub location looks similar on the surface, but here, it’s all about the presentation.

The first thing you’ll notice is a towering 24-ft screen blasting TSN and SportsNet all day long. In front of the screen, they don’t have boring old tables–they have an entire 50-person living room of cozy leather chairs replete with cup holders and detachable trays. If they hadn’t made me leave, I might have moved in there.

Can you imagine watching the Bombers win the Grey Cup on a screen bigger than your house in a chair better than anything you have in your house? Actually, it felt kind of like I was in first class on an airplane with that little tray across my legs as someone brought me beer and appetizers. (Definitely not just man heaven then.)

On top of all that, they’ve got an entire bank of Wiis where you can play to your heart’s content as well as a golf and soccer simulator. They’ve got pool tables, Foosball tables and even tables where you can sit and eat (novel, I know).

There are 32 TVs and a DJ controlling them all. So if you and some friends decide you’d like to watch the Westminster Dog Show in your little corner (it’s a sport right?), then you just let him know.

They’ve added another bar on the main floor (never a bad thing) and have many varieties of beer on tap, including Sapporo which I’ve never seen outside of a can before. And of course, what would a sports bar be without some hardy grub? They’ve got all the usual varieties of burgers, wings and fries as well as creative plates like cute little mini-burgers with four different toppings, poutine and yam fries. Yum, yum, yum. (Never mind that I was drinking at noon on a Monday, it was totally worth the effort to stay awake for the rest of the afternoon.)

There’s also a really posh VIP room upstairs that you can reserve for meetings and presentations.

It’s a place with endless potential as a destination in downtown. They are constantly hosting exciting events to coincide with your favourite sporting events with specials, contests and more. This place is just really, really cool.